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The Wizard of Zo

timbannock

Explorer
4 out of 5 rating for The Wizard of Zo

Summary

From the adventure’s synopsis:

What Lies Behind the Mask of Ubtao?

As the characters travel through the dinosaur-infested jungles of Chult, they come across a rundown encampment named Camp Resistance. They quickly discover that those who created the camp left after a strange being began demanding tribute. Now the Chultans who remain are convinced that the being is a manifestation of their lost god, Ubtao, and continue to pay the tithe but are seeing little for their work. Who or what is the strange being? Can the characters help free Camp Resistance from oppression?

A 5-10 hour Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition adventure for 5th-10th level characters.


This adventure dovetails nicely with sections of the official campaign-length adventure Tomb of Annihilation. It features locations tied to various parts of that campaign, NPCs with relationships to some of the characters featured therein, and a few more vague, easter egg-style ties to the themes of the adventure.

Credits

Story: JVC Parry

Author: JVC Parry

Editor: Ken Carcas

Proof: Julia King

Cover Art: Danny Pavlov

Interior Art: Danny Pavlov, Dean Spencer, Matt Morrow & Travis Purvis

Cartography: JVC Parry, Matthias Rothenaicher

Layout: JVC Parry

Assistant Layout: Julia King & Phil Beckwith

Disclaimer

This review was requested by JVC Parry, who graciously provided a complimentary copy of the adventure.

Content 5/5

Overall, the Wizard of Zo is a fully-loaded adventure that will take “5-10 hours to complete,” but has the groundwork laid for a lot more than that, truth be told.

By “fully-loaded,” I mean that there’s a lot of content. This adventure is primarily set in Chult, in and around Camp Resistance. If that sounds like a lot of familiarity with Tomb of Annihilation, you’re on the money, because that’s exactly what this is: it’s a great side trek that can be run during that adventure. Or you can use it as a means to revisit Chult after the fact.

The adventure contains three plot hooks that tie in with places in Tomb — Port Nyanzaru, Camp Vengeance — or it can be run without knowledge of that campaign. It kicks off with the players arriving at Camp Resistance and finding the place in shambles, with several factions who all either fear or hope to overthrow their new, unwanted master: the mysterious Mask of Ubtao, which demands gold from them, lest they wish to suffer swift punishment from the Mask’s vicious weretiger servants.

The twist of the adventure — that the Wizard of Zo and the Mask of Ubtao are a clear (but twisted) Wizard of Oz reference — actually runs throughout the adventure. There are several Oz references, but all of them are either subtle or are silly, in a good way. Like a chimera named Toto. The point is, the reference isn’t there to please Wizard of Oz fans, it’s more of just a fun gimmick. The adventure itself — every encounter, the twist, the challenges the party faces — stand alone and separate from anything related to the Wizard of Oz, and form an incredibly strong superstructure from which to hang an evocative adventure. In many ways, this is the same as Tomb of Annihilation itself: it had clear references to Tomb of Horrors, Isle of Dread, and similar older edition adventure material, but it stood on its own as a flavorful setting and a fun, exploration-heavy campaign. Hell, there are even some direct Tomb of Horrors references in this adventure, and they come with a cheeky and well done story reason for being in there.

The Camp’s major NPCs are detailed briefly but with a lot of flavor. They each get a profile/headshot-style picture. All of the new monsters are featured with art. The factions that remain in the Camp have believable motivations and fears, creating a powder keg situation that the players unwittingly stumble into. There are several action scenes, but these are broken up by great roleplaying scenes, and there are often bits of exploration that are thrown in. One example is the scene where the Mask of Ubtao shows up to demand tribute from the Camp: the players could engage, but there are plenty of ways for them to stay back and get some incredibly useful information before they proceed.

The maps are on par with the top-tier designers, and includes features that really help the DM run the place. In the final lair of Zo, the doors all show which direction they open out. There’s an iron “tree” that spreads branches throughout the complex for Zo to move around easily. There are pillars that have a neat ‘destructible’ feature in case they are employed in combat. These sorts of design considerations are the kind of thing that make a lair really stand out and feel like something other than a bunch of square rooms connected by hallways that only turn in 90-degree increments.

The new or modified creature stat blocks include:

Albino dwarf warrior (CR 1/4)

Flying monkey (CR 0)

Giant snapping turtle (CR 3)

Girallon zombie (CR 3)

Pterafolk (CR 1)

Spinosaurus (CR 5)

Straw man (CR 5)

Tyrannosaurus zombie (CR 8)

Wizard of Zo, a modified zorbo (CR 4)

At the end is an index that includes page references for all of the important monsters from the Monster Manual and rules or magic items from the Dungeon Master’s Guide, making adventure prep a breeze.

Form 4/5

I found only a couple very minor editing misses:

The ballistae in Camp Resistance don’t seem to be clearly placed or called out in the area descriptions; they are referenced in one encounter, then seem to disappear.

Area Z4 needs a ceiling height reference; the text suggests it’s higher than surrounding rooms (10-foot ceilings), but no height is listed.

Area Z13 (p. 22) features an errant “the the” in the text.

There are one or two spots where there’s a missing word like “the” or “and.”

Only the first two affects gameplay, and that’s a simple fix (make the room 20-30 feet high; add in the ballistae on the map where you think they should go). The rest are so minor they are hardly noticeable. I’ll ding a single star…but only because I’m a nitpicky bastard.

Looking beyond that, there is only perfection to be found. The adventure is formatted to look like an official release, from page design and text formatting all the way up to the quality of the artwork. There are so many perfect, evocative pieces throughout that you really get a sense of the world these characters and locations inhabit. Importantly, this means you’re getting pictures for most of the key monsters and NPCs, and that’s not something you normally see in a community created publication. Tracking down that much good stock art or commissioning all the necessary custom art is no small task! Parry and his team make this seem effortless, and so I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a Guild Adept or strikes off to create his own company doing 3rd party OGL releases to clear a higher royalty percentage. Anyway, let’s not give him any ideas, okay?

Conclusion

Content 5/5, Form 4/5. This averages to 4.5, and as always with D&D, we round down for a final result of 4: I really like it!
 

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